Climate Action Alliance of the Valley: Climate, energy news for week of Nov. 1
Excerpts from a recent Roundup follow; full Roundup is here.
Politics and Policy
The Trump administration recently removed the NOAA chief scientist, installed new political staff who question accepted climate change facts, and imposed stricter controls on agency communications, all apparently to drastically change the next National Climate Assessment. Grist reported DOE bottled up reports for over 40 clean energy studies, according to emails and documents, and interviews with over 12 current and former employees at DOE and its national labs. Trump’s three energy and environmental agency heads have been frequently touring swing states, raising questions about whether the administration is improperly using government resources to boost Trump’s reelection bid. A U.S. Court of International Trade ruling again paused administration plans to extend tariffs to two-sided solar panels. The effective date for U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement is Nov. 4. If Biden wins, his administration can apply to rejoin and do so 30 days after the application is received. Grist has an interactive “article” to let you find a path to crafting a climate policy — no matter who wins.
The Zero Carbon Action Plan, developed by ~100 individuals from academia and think tanks, offers a road map for a new administration to reach net‑zero carbon emissions by 2050. Evergreen Action urged a President Biden to consider using U.S. financial regulation as a tool to fight climate change. Biden could use Trump’s playbook to reverse deregulatory moves on pollution and climate. Biden’s pledge to rededicate the U.S. to combatting climate change would mean a greater role for NASA’s Earth Science research. Biden is leaning into climate change in the final days before the election, issuing new national ads attacking Trump’s science denial; Trump continues to hammer Biden’s position on the oil industry. Thomas Kaplan reported on Biden’s inner climate‑change circle; Alexander Kaufman discussed possible EPA heads. A Biden victory could nearly double the annual rate of U.S. solar deployment. E&E News discussed ways a Biden administration could set a date after which new gasoline and/or diesel‑powered car U.S sales couldn’t happen.
Japan and South Korea pledged carbon neutrality by 2050, suggesting reactivation of some of Japan’s nuclear power plants. Hundreds of coal-fired power plants remain in planning worldwide; these announcements, plus banks increasingly unwilling to finance new plants, suggest an end to the global coal plant boom is no longer a distant prospect.
A Canadian Federal Court judge struck down a lawsuit by 15 young Canadians arguing the government was violating their charter rights. As climate change effects become more severe, prominent research institutions and government agencies are focusing new money and attention on solar geoengineering, in hope of buying humanity more time to cut greenhouse gas emissions. To address the growing threat of sea level rise to shoreline communities, Virginia officials will promote science-based, cross‑jurisdictional collaboration to mitigate flooding and increase communities’ resilience.
Climate and Climate Science
The minimum volume of Arctic sea ice declined steadily until 2012, when the current record was set. An Environmental Research Letters paper sought to explain why that minimum has not fallen below the record. Scientists found the Alaskan subsurface permafrost distribution is more complicated than previously thought, suggesting many regions may be more vulnerable. The Greenland Ice Sheet loss has accelerated significantly over the past two decades, transforming the ice sheet edge’s shape and coastal Greenland. Antarctic ice sheet melting is well underway and will be almost impossible to reverse, even if global emissions reduction targets are met.
Research suggests lightning is an increasingly common cause of large wildfires, and climate change may cause increased lightning strikes over the continental U.S. in coming decades. Two wildfires are now burning in Southern California, enlarging rapidly and forcing evacuations of tens of thousands in Orange County.
At least six people died and over 2.3Mn customers were without power after Hurricane Zeta hit the U.S. Gulf Coast and rushed inland. Typhoon Molave was the fourth tropical storm to hit Vietnam since October 11 and the ninth since 2020 began.
The World Meteorological Organization declared a La Niña event underway, heralding a colder and stormier winter than usual across the northern hemisphere; 2020 remains likely to be one of the warmest years on record. New research shows corn is becoming more vulnerable to drought, a finding with major implications for annual yields given scientists’ predictions that climate change will intensify poor weather conditions.
The first electric school buses in Virginia will begin rolling early next month, thanks to Dominion Energy’s Electric School Bus Program and Sonny Merryman, a school and commercial bus company. On Nov. 12 Ford Motor Co. will unveil its zero emission all-electric E-Transit, a green version of the top-selling cargo van. “I do see that there will be an electrified Ram pickup in the marketplace…,” Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Mike Manley said. Nikola, Toyota, Hyundai, and Daimler are among companies pursuing hydrogen fuel cell trucks, replacing diesel rigs with quiet, zero‑emission trucks. By 2035 Airbus hopes to have a hydrogen-powered commercial airliner releasing zero CO2 emissions.
Independent think tank RethinkX predicts the combination of solar and wind energy with batteries could undercut and disrupt the existing global energy system with “the cheapest power available” over the next decade. Dan Gearino reported the average levelized cost of energy for PV solar farms is now $37 per megawatt-hour; on-shore wind is $40, a combined cycle natural gas plant is $59. The New York Times combined text with graphics to show how electricity sources in each state have varied over the past 20 years. Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina are teaming up to “cooperatively promote, develop, and expand offshore wind energy and the accompanying industry supply chain and workforce.”
ExxonMobil said it could cut its global workforce by about 15% including deep white-collar staff reductions in the U.S., as the COVID-19 pandemic batters energy demand and prices. Oil prices tumbled Thursday, touching a five-month low and extending the previous day’s sharp decline. Alberta, heart of Canadian hydrocarbon extraction, has a goal of a 45% drop in the industry’s methane footprint from its 160,000 active wells by 2025; the province also contains almost 100,000 inactive wells that have not been decommissioned, but could be leaking.
Energy storage developer GlidePath Power Solutions will use a full life-cycle management platform for the batteries it employs, including recycling and repurposing as it seeks to “resolve the recycling and re-use case upfront, not down the track”. GreenTech Media addressed the question of what “long‑term energy storage” means.
Grist launched a new podcast, “Temperature Check”, about climate, race, and culture. There is a movement to get those with TIAA retirement accounts to divest from fossil fuels. National Geographic spoke with Greta Thunberg about how her activism has changed over the past year and how her message might survive an increasingly complex world. Amy Brady spoke with Kim Stanley Robinson, author of The Ministry for the Future.
More than at any time in the past, young activists helped bring climate change onto the table in 2020’s presidential election.
Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee